September 9, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; Carolina Panthers defensive back Haruki Nakamura (43) warm up prior to the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina Panthers: Finishing What Was Started

The carnage of Black Monday has left some teams like rudder less ships cruising the ocean with no way of directing their course. This has me thinking about the Carolina Panthers. We are a team that has a clear destination in our sights, we have already begun turning our ship (team) in a certain direction. The “rudder” of this team can be seen in the person of head coach Ron Rivera.

Dec 30, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; Side judge Jimmy DeBell (58) talks with Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera during first quarter of their game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

There is no doubt Rivera makes one heck of a good defensive coordinator. But if memory serves he was interviewed 8 or 9 times for a head coaching position, and every time he was passed over for another candidate. So initially I was uneasy about the hire. Well after the 2011 season, Rivera’s 1st as the head man, I was “all in on Ron”. He did experienced some growing pains as a coach, but what he was able to accomplish with no offseason, implementing his offensive and defensive philosophies into a young team, was impressive. If you factor in Carolina had just drafted their franchise quarterback and the way Rivera and Chudzinski were able to build an offense around Cam’s unique skill set with no real offseason, makes Rivera’s success in 2011 really stands out. I was sold on Rivera. I was sure he was the man to take us to the promised land. Fans, myself included, can be so wishy-washy.

Well with unrealistic expectations for the 2012 season many fans, I being chief among them, were calling for Rivera to be let go after a 1-6 start. For me personally the breaking point was the Falcons game in week 4. We had dominated the game and I felt gave the game away by a poor coaching decision in choosing not to go for it on the 4th and 1 late in the fourth quarter. I was livid at coach Rivera for not making use of the talent he had on offense. I beat him up in several comments I posted throughout various  Panthers and football sites. I wanted him immediately relieved of all coaching duties. Thankfully I am not nor ever will be an NFL franchise executive. In hindsight to punt the ball in that situation was the right call. We lost that game because of some poor personnel acquisitions made by former GM Marty Hurney.

When I look back at where we were as a team then and see the team that finished this season, I can see the type of man Rivera is. He is the kind of man who stays the course. He does not get rattled easy. He has a system of beliefs in place and he does not waver from those beliefs. This team believes in him too. The players have a strong connection to their coach and played hard for him all season. Rivera has been close in many games but for whatever reason, call it fate or plain old bad luck, he has been on the short end of the stick in so many close games. There have been some issues with time management, there have been issues with kickers, and there have been injuries, but through it all Rivera kept saying “we’re close” and it turns out he was right.

Aug 11, 2012; Charlotte, NC, USA Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson rides on a golf car during warm ups before the game against the Houston Texans at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The turn around exhibited by this team shows that we have found the right man for the job. Rivera has earned a 3rd year as head coach. He deserves a chance to finish what he started. I think the fact JR has not made a move yet works in favor of Rivera. With all the firings that took place Monday if the Panthers were to let Rivera go now, the team would be behind several other teams that have already scheduled visits from various head coaching candidates.

The talent on this team is unquestionable. I believe Ron Rivera has shown the last few weeks he is the man to take this team to the next level. With a good draft, the return of some injured players, and a willingness of players to rework contracts, Carolina has a chance to be a contender in 2013. Let’s allow the man who started this team in a new direction a chance to get us there.

God Bless!

Follow me on Twitter @JoeRiollano

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